Imagine yourself carving an awesome curved swath across a slope of fresh snow as skeins of sparkling powdered ice explode around you, leaving iridescent clouds of sparking ice in your wake that slowly cascade to the ground. Snowboarding is just cool.
For enthusiasts of this winter sport, those last four words explain it all. Since its humble beginnings in the 1960s as a child’s toy, Snowboarding has exploded into the Olympic event and gnarly extreme sport we know today. Snowboarding is one of the fastest growing winter sports ever, and shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.
Modern snowboarding can be traced directly to the 1965 invention of Sherman Poppen, a chemical engineer who built a new snow toy for his young daughter by fastening two skis together and attaching a rope to the front end to hold on to. His daughter loved it and all her friends wanted one too, so Poppen decided to license the idea to a manufacturer. His wife came up with a name for the new product, and in 1966 “The Snurfer” became a minor sensation, selling over a half million units.
The next major development was in 1972 when Dimitije Milovich, an east coast surfing enthusiast, founded the Winterstick Company and started building snowboards. Milovich had built his first snowboard in 1969 based on a surfboard design, and by 1974 had two “Snow Surfboard” patents and was selling snowboards out of his shop in Salt Lake City.
By end of the 1970s the new and innovative sport of Snowboarding was being led by two legendary men, Jake Burton Carpenter and Tom Sims, who helped bring the sport into the mainstream consciousness. Burton was an East Coaster who refined the idea of the Snurfer and was selling what he called “Burton Boards”, while Sims was a West Coast skateboard icon selling his own version of a wheel-less skateboard-like “skiboard”. Both men were driven to market their concepts and engaged in a sometimes-bitter rivalry that propelled snowboarding into a mass-market phenomenon.
Throughout the 1980s snowboarding grew exponentially, as new snowboard products hit the market and ever-innovative snowboarders invented new ways to ride them. At first the staid world of winter sports skiing didn’t know what to make of all these scruffy young people showing up on the slopes with their boards, and many slopes actually banned snowboarders. But by the end of the 1980s all that had changed as the sport continued to explode in popularity, and began drawing major corporate sponsorship for organized competitions. By 1998 Snowboarding debuted at the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, and since has shown no signs of slowing down.